Managing the Public Service: Strategies for Improvement

2310-2012 (online)
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A strong and achieving public service is a necessary condition for a competitively successful nation. This series maps current and emerging best practices in public service management from across the Commonwealth. It draws on the experience of practitioners, managers and policy-makers to point the way to practical strategies for improvement.

The Contract System of Employment for Senior Government Officials

The Contract System of Employment for Senior Government Officials

Experiences from the Caribbean You do not have access to this content

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Philip Osei, Joan Nwasike
09 May 2011
9781848590984 (PDF)

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This publication reviews the effects of the reforms implemented under the ‘new public management’ programme on the roles and conditions of service of permanent secretaries and directors in Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia. These countries introduced the contract system of employment, and their experiences highlight the importance of acknowledging context in considering the implications of the contract system, and the challenges of implementation.

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  • Foreword

    As governments around the world embark on a new paradigm to improve public service delivery, it is important to document the policies and processes so that public sector policy-makers, senior managers, academics and others who are at the centre of performance management can learn from each other.

  • Abbreviations and Acronyms
  • Summary

    Several Commonwealth countries have implemented different forms of the contract system of employment for permanent secretaries and other top government officials. This study looked at the experiences of four Caribbean countries, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and St Lucia, in implementing contract systems of employment and other contractual arrangements for senior public service officers, specifically permanent secretaries, at the turn of the century. Primary research was conducted using multiple methods including fieldwork and observation, survey, elite interviews, examination of public policy documents and review of secondary literature and qualitative methods of analysis. The findings show that policy changes, broadly based on the tenets of New Public Management (NPM), were made to the old public administration systems associated with the inherited Westminster–Whitehall model in these countries...

  • Introduction

    In the latter part of the 1970s and the 1980s the Government of the United Kingdom, under the then Prime Minister Mrs Margaret Thatcher, established the Efficiency Unit in the Prime Minister’s Office and this unit undertook an in-depth assessment of the public sector with a view to infusing private sector management culture and ethics into the management of state affairs. This policy experiment deepened as other aspects of the reform were introduced, for example the public financial management initiative which sought to achieve the following objectives: simplify financial reporting and accounting systems; establish clearer and stronger cost controls; clarify the links between programme and budgets of ministries; improve ministers’ ability to direct and control the senior public service officer cohort; and bring about transparency in government activities in areas of procurement and project management. Similar reforms took place in the United States of America under the presidency of Ronald Reagan. Over the following decades governments in some Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have followed suit and restructured their systems, leading to a broad movement which came to be called the New Public Management Reform Movement. The application of these broad reform principles led to a shift from the traditional bureaucracy to make the administration of public affairs more results-oriented, emphasising among other things cost-effectiveness, customer service and high quality service provision, and making the terms of public employment more flexible. Flexible government is noted to be ‘opposed to the rigidities and conservatism attributed to permanent organisational structures and individuals with permanent, highly secure careers’ (Pollitt and Bouckaert, 2000: 127).

  • Assessment of the Contract System of Employment for Senior Public Service Officers (Permanent Secretaries)

    Analysis of the findings from the study is presented using a comparative analysis that attempts to achieve a concise report and draw lessons using the basic demographic characteristics of the permanent secretaries and the ministerial portfolio in the case study countries shown in Table 1. This report also uses many of the details ascertained through the country assessment, which looked not only at the contractual arrangements under which the permanent secretaries operate, but also the environment in which they operate and how the various environmental factors impinge on their ability to express leadership and implement policies to achieve national development goals. The environmental factors in question include the constitutional setting, the political context, the macroeconomic situation and socio-cultural factors which determine the broader cultural mores of public administration in any particular country. A conclusion is then drawn from the experiences of senior public service officers under contract employment and other forms of contract in the four Caribbean countries.

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